Brazilian Blowout Hair Treatment Takes Heat From FDA

Agency warns about hair smoother's formaldehyde dangers and false advertising.

ByABC News
September 8, 2011, 9:53 AM

Sept. 8, 2011— -- The makers of the Brazilian Blowout will have to smooth things out with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration if they want to keep selling their hair-straightening products.

In a letter to Mike Brady, chief executive officer of Brazilian Blowout maker GIB LLC, the agency warned that the smoothing solutions sold to salons nationwide contain the potentially dangerous and undisclosed chemical formaldehyde.

"Brazilian Blowout is misbranded because its label and labeling (including instructions for use) makes misleading statements regarding the product's ingredients and fails to reveal material facts with respect to consequences that may result from the use of the product," wrote Michael W. Roosevelt, acting director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition's Office of Compliance.

Formaldehyde is a carcinogen, which means it can cause cancer. Brazilian Blowout labels say the products "contain no formaldehyde," as opposed to being "formaldehyde-free," which the labels previously claimed. The products do contain methylene glycol -- a liquid form of the chemical that emits formaldehyde gas when heated.

"The bottom line is that formaldehyde can be released from hair smoothing products that list any of these names on the label and workers can breathe it in or absorb it through their skin," the Occupational Health and Safety Administration warned in April 2011. "Workers can be exposed to formaldehyde during the entire hair straightening process, especially when heat is applied," during blow-drying or flat ironing, for example -- key steps in the blowout process.

But Brady of GIB LLC maintains that the levels of formaldehyde emitted into the air fall well within OSHA's safety limits.

"When you heat up methylene glycol, trace amounts of formaldehyde are released into the air," Brady said. "But OSHA has very clear guidelines on formaldehyde emissions, and our product has never exceeded those guidelines ever."

The Aug. 22 warning letter is the latest wrinkle for Brazilian Blowout (GIB), whose products have prompted a string of lawsuits and hazard alerts.